In the transition from hospital care to recovery, patients can feel lost in the cracks.
The Minneapolis-based Allina Health System discharges about 100,000 patients per year in the Twin Cities metro, and interviews a few years ago with 15 congestive heart failure patients put a spotlight on the problem.
“A third of them were in tears, because they didn’t know where to go, what to do, what to take — all of those things,” said Dr. Penny Wheeler, the chief executive of Allina, in an interview. The process troubles hospital workers, Wheeler said, because “nobody wants the people that they care for so diligently to ever feel left out.”
That’s part of the reason Allina partnered with St. Paul-based Presbyterian Homes & Services and Duluth-based Benedictine Health System to open two free-standing transitional care facilities in the Twin Cities metro in February.
Called Interlude Restorative Suites, the centers offer rehabilitation and wellness services following hospital care for patients with joint replacements, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, heart failure, acute heart attack and other conditions.
Presbyterian Homes covered 90 percent of the $17 million tab for a facility in Plymouth that’s located next to Abbott Northwestern Hospital’s WestHealth Campus. As the owner of Abbott Northwestern, Allina covered about 10 percent of costs.
It’s the same split between Benedictine Health System and Allina on a slightly smaller $15 million facility in Fridley, which is connected by skyway to Allina’s Unity Hospital.
Presbyterian Homes and Benedictine Health System specialize in long-term care, and each nonprofit group already offers transitional care in dedicated senior living communities or other centers. What’s new with Interlude is locating centers so close to existing hospitals and clinics, while offering amenities that range from private rooms and smart TVs to state-of-the art rehabilitation equipment.
The center in Fridley, for example, includes a special “antigravity” treadmill, which carries up to 80 percent of a patient’s weight while walking. Another difference: Patients at the Interlude centers are called “guests.”
“It’s a step up,” said Rocklon Chapin, the chief executive at Benedictine Health System. “The language that we use here — the reference to the individual served as a guest, rather than a resident or patient, is a small but very significant change.”
In the current market, there’s roughly a balance between supply and demand for transitional care, said Daniel Lindh, the chief executive at Presbyterian Homes. So, the nonprofits are sensitive to concerns competitors might have about the impact on their business, Lindh said.
But any impact should be blunted, Lindh said, by growing demand for transitional care as baby boomers age and the number of people over age 85 increases. “There’s growth in this area, and that growth is going to be at least 50 percent in the next 15 years,” Lindh said.
The three nonprofits plan to open four more centers in the next three to five years, if things go as planned with the first two.
For providers of long-term care, offering transitional care creates a chance to earn higher reimbursements from government health insurance programs, said Chapin of Benedictine Health System.
For Allina, an investment in better transitional care could help prevent patients from having to be readmitted to the hospital. Currently, such readmissions are a source of revenue for hospitals, Wheeler said, but reimbursement policies are changing in ways that ultimately will penalize medical centers when they occur.
Readmissions are “a great cost to society, to Medicare, to insurers and, more importantly, it’s a disruption in the quality of life to the older adult,” said Lindh of Presbyterian Homes. “So, part of what we’re trying to do here is make those connections, to avoid those re-hospitalizations.”